Bahai News - Moody's Magic Earns Bouquets
Moody's Magic Earns Bouquets
By Mike Zwerin International Herald Tribune
NEW YORK - King Pleasure's version of Eddie Jefferson's vocal
adaptation of James Moody's classic alto saxophone improvisation on
''I'm in the Mood for Love'' became a hit called ''Moody's Mood for
Love.'' James Moody's own vocal version of their vocal interpretation of
his solo adds up to a triple twist he likes to laugh about. Combined
with an engaging stage presence and a bubbling sense of humor, his
no-nonsense, top-echelon improvising makes him a unique performer. On a
good night, most nights, he is just about unbeatable.
James and Linda Moody were holding hands in the back seat of a town car
on their way to a radio interview in Newark, New Jersey. It was the
Friday before a big ''James Moody 75th Birthday Bash'' on April 3 at
Avery Fisher Hall, sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center. The mayor of
Newark, where Moody was raised, had proclaimed it ''James Moody
''The big thing about Monday,'' he said, ''is that it's also our 11th
anniversary. We were married on a Monday. I'm telling you, it's
wonderful. Traveling gets a lot better when my wife comes with me.''
There is a color photo of the two of them hugging and smiling on their
collaborative calling card. Their e-mail address is ''mood4love.'' In
September, they will travel together to concerts in Singapore and Kuala
Moody joined Dizzy Gillespie in 1946, after an honorable discharge from
the U.S. Army Air Corps. Apart from a number of years working in the Las
Vegas version of a day job, he was Gillespie's featured soloist, musical
director, stand-in and sidekick off and on for 47 years. They teamed up
on the memorable giggler ''Swing Low Sweet Cadillac.'' They both became
members of the Bahai church.
The Moodys, who met at a Bahai church, live in San Diego. Linda is a
real estate broker, James drives a ''sharp little Mercedes my wife got
Newark was sparkling under a blue spring sky. He had not been back in
many years. He was excited, pointing out the landmarks of his youth,
mostly torn down: ''Look how that's changed. Man oh man. I started
coming down here to look at the saxophones in music store windows. I
must have been 10. I liked the way saxophones looked. My mother lived in
North Newark. She was 86 when she died.''
His maternal grandfather played trumpet with circus bands. His father
played trumpet with Tiny Bradshaw's band. Moody's Uncle Louis, 87, who
gave him his first saxophone when he was 15, was coming in from South
Carolina for the birthday bash. The Moodys' hotel suite was so full of
flowers they could hardly walk around. Daisies, roses and lilies from
Bill and Camille Cosby, and bouquets from Lincoln Center and from Peter
and Stacey Jennings.
Moody does not tend to his own garden at home in San Diego. The gardener
comes in on Wednesdays. ''I go to the health-food store to get my
garden,'' he said. He's vegetarian. ''I can't learn how to play my major
scales if I'm out there mowing the lawn. I still practice my scales.
That's the truth, man. I practice eight hours a day. Tell him, honey. If
I don't practice I know I'll regret it before long. Everything must
change, and if I practice just maybe it will help change it for the
In the studios of WBGO-FM, he told the host of the show, Michael
Bourne, that, like Charlie Parker, his first influence had been Jimmy
Dorsey. He liked Dorsey's recording of ''Oodles of Noodles.'' Bourne
said that he had seen him in his role as an eccentric dog walker in the
Clint Eastwood movie ''In the Garden of Good and Evil.'' Moody was born
in Savannah, where it was made.
After the broadcast of a recording on which he played flute, Moody was
modest: ''I'm not a flautist. I call myself a 'flute holder.' I got a
flute by a fluke.'' He savored the sound of that: ''You know, people ask
me why I'm always clowning. I guess that's just the way I is.'' He
paused a beat for the Fats Wallerism to sink in: ''Bill Cosby says that
it's usually 1 o'clock in the morning before I get through kissing
MOODY continued in a more serious vein: ''Music can go as high as you
want to take it. Or it can go very low. When somebody doesn't know
anything about music, they will play a simple triad and take it up a
half-step and think they are really into something. That's what a lot of
rock people do. I'm not knocking it. It's just that you don't want
somebody to be able to pull the wool over your brain. I'm saying that
education is the key. The more educated your ear becomes the more you
are able to absorb something interesting when it is thrown out at you.
Jazz is uplifting music. Jazz makes you think. You are not only being
entertained. You say, 'Oh boy, that's beautiful. How was that done? I'd
like to find out how to do that.'''
The next afternoon, on the West Side of Manhattan, Wynton Marsalis was
directing the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra rehearsing Lalo Schifrin's
arrangement of ''Happy Birthday.'' Guest stars included Jimmy Heath,
Slide Hampton, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross. The members of the
orchestra were mostly two generations younger than the guest stars.
After they ran down Gil Fuller's 1947 composition ''Things to Come,''
Moody marveled that it still sounded like music of the future, and that
he had first played it with Gillespie more than 50 years ago when most
of the musicians in the orchestra had not yet been born. ''I hate to say
this,'' remarked an old-timer on the sidelines, ''but their mothers
probably weren't even born yet.''
©Copyright 2000, International Herald Tribune
Page last updated/revised 041500
Return to the Bahá'í Association's Main Web Page